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Rotation: LH C.J. Wilson (15-8, 3.35), RH Colby Lewis (12-13, 3.72; 3-0, 1.71 in 4 postseason starts), RH Tommy Hunter (13-4, 3.73), LH Derek Holland (3-4, 4.08), LH Matt Harrison (3-2, 4.71).

Key Relievers: RH Neftali Feliz (4-3, 2.73, major league rookie record 40 saves in 43 chances), Michael Kirkman (0-0, 1.65 in 14 games), Alexi Ogando (4-1, 1.30), Mark Lowe (1-3, 5.40 in 14 games for Seattle and Texas), Darren O’Day (6-2, 2.03), Arthur Rhodes (4-4, 2.29 in 69 games for Cincinnati), Darren Oliver (1-2, 2.48).

Hot Spots: Feliz’s role, 1B-DH. Feliz was stretched out this spring for the possibility of being in the rotation, but making him a starter could leave a huge hole on the back end of the bullpen, especially since other proven relievers struggled this spring. Texas has other starting options, plus expects former NL Cy Young winner Brandon Webb to be added to the mix the first half of the season. Feliz went into his rookie season last year as a setup reliever, but flourished when given a chance to close after Francisco blew two saves the first week of the season. Francisco is no longer a closing option since he got sent to Toronto for Napoli. If Feliz starts, Harrison or Holland likely become a long reliever, then Ogando or Lowe could share the closing duty if the Rangers can’t find a better option. The acquisition of Beltre pushed Young into a DH/utility role. The plan is for Young to play some first base with Moreland, but the Rangers also got Napoli, a backup catcher who is also a 1B-DH. Washington has said Young will be a regular in the lineup _ assuming he isn’t traded as he requested before spring training.

Outlook: Though Lee couldn’t be persuaded to stay with the Rangers after their first World Series, just remember they already had a significant division lead before the ace lefty arrived in July. With the addition of Beltre to an already potent lineup, the Rangers should be in contention to defend their AL West title even as other division teams have seemingly improved. They expect Wilson and Lewis to be solid again after breakthrough seasons for the Rangers last year, and they will get a big boost if Webb is healthy and able to contribute after coming back from shoulder surgery in 2009. And they hope Hamilton, right fielder Nelson Cruz and second baseman Ian Kinsler can be healthy for the entire season. All were still big contributors despite missing significant time because of injury last season.

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Oakland Athletics

2010: 81-81, second place.

Manager: Bob Geren (5th season).

He’s Here: OF David DeJesus, DH Hideki Matsui, OF Josh Willingham, LHP Brian Fuentes, RHP Brandon McCarthy, RHP Rich Harden, RHP Grant Balfour.

He’s Outta There: RHP Ben Sheets, OF Rajai Davis, DH Jack Cust, INF Eric Chavez, OF Gabe Gross, RHP Justin Duchscherer, RHP Vin Mazzaro.

Projected Lineup: CF Coco Crisp (.279, 8, 38, 32 SBs in 75 games), 1B Daric Barton (.273, 10, 57, 110 BBs, .393 OBP), RF David DeJesus (.318, 5, 37 in 91 games for Kansas City), LF Josh Willingham (.268, 15, 66 for Washington), DH Hideki Matsui (.274, 21, 84 for Angels), C Kurt Suzuki (.242, 13, 71), 2B Mark Ellis (.291, 5, 49), 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff (.247, 16, 71), SS Cliff Pennington (.250, 6, 46, 29 SBs, 25 errors).

Rotation: LF Brett Anderson (7-6, 2.80 in 19 starts), LH Gio Gonzalez (15-9, 3.23), RH Trevor Cahill (18-8, 2.97), LH Dallas Braden (11-14, 3.50 with a perfect game), RH Brandon McCarthy (4-2, 3.36 in 11 games at Triple-A Oklahoma).

Key Relievers: RH Andrew Bailey (1-3, 1.47, 25 saves in 28 chances, .199 BA against), LH Brian Fuentes (4-1, 2.81, 24 saves in 28 chances for Minnesota and Angels), RH Grant Balfour (2-1, 2.28 for Tampa Bay), RH Michael Wuertz (2-3, 4.31, 6 saves), LH Craig Breslow (4-4, 3.01, 5 saves, 75 games, .181 BA vs LH).

Hot Spots: The A’s are hoping the additions of Willingham and DeJesus and a healthy season from Crisp upgrade an outfield that was one of the weakest-hitting groups in the majors. Oakland’s outfielders combined for just 32 home runs all of last season _ one more than last-place Kansas City. While the A’s still lack a big home run threat in their lineup, they should be able to improve on the .378 slugging percentage (second worst in majors) and major league-worst .314 on-base percentage their outfielders provided last year.

Outlook: The A’s bring back four of the 16 AL pitchers who had ERAs of 3.50 or better in at least 100 innings last season and all of them are 27 or younger. So with that young core in place, the task this offseason was on adding bullpen depth and improving an offense that hit the third-fewest homers in the majors with 109 and scored the fourth-fewest runs in the AL with 663 _ the second-lowest total in a full season for the franchise in three decades. The bullpen depth is already being tested with four-time All-Star closer Brian Fuentes possibly having to fill in for incumbent closer Andrew Bailey, who was sidelined in the spring with a strained forearm. If DeJesus, Willingham and Matsui can sufficiently upgrade the offense and the A’s can stay relatively healthy after being decimated by injuries in recent seasons, they could be in position to contend in the AL West.

Story Continues →